No matter your personality type, you can fall prey to a toxic person, like a malignant narcissist or a sociopath. Toxic people have little empathy, combined with an excessive sense of entitlement, a false sense of superiority, and a tendency to be interpersonally exploitative for their own gain. Introvert or extrovert, INFJ or not, you’ve probably encountered at least one toxic person in your lifetime.
That said, it’s interesting to note that people who identify as an INFJ personality type are highly represented on forums like Psychopath Free, a support forum for survivors of narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths. Could INFJs be somewhat more prone than others to attracting toxic people? It may seem bizarre that one of the most authentic personality types could end up with someone who’s inauthentic and superficially charming. But there are several good reasons why these two people may (initially) gravitate towards each other.
(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality test.)
Let’s explore how the traits of the INFJ interact with the traits of the narcissist — and how, like any other personality type, we can be both vulnerable to narcissists as well as empowered by what we’ve learned from our experiences with them.
Why the INFJ Is a Target of Narcissists
Not all INFJs will become targets of narcissists, but here are three reasons why it happens to so many of them.
1. INFJs seek the “ultimate relationship.”
INFJs are idealists. They place a high value on the few people they invite into their private inner world. When INFJs seek the ultimate relationship, their heart is in the right place. They only want what they know deep down they deserve — a person who respects and honors them as they are.
To an INFJ, the narcissist’s love-bombing (a period of excessive idealization and “grooming” that a narcissist subjects a victim to) may initially seem like the ultimate high of a perfect relationship. The INFJ finally gets the affection, adoration, and attention they may not be getting elsewhere.
Lovers of words, INFJs may initially be charmed by the narcissist’s flattery. Like any other personality type, they can be susceptible to the toxic person’s “false mask” of seeming vulnerability and innocent admiration.
But once an INFJ has learned all the tricks and tools of such charlatans, they’re able to differentiate between authentic interest and an inauthentic agenda.
2. INFJs have a tendency to want to “fix” others.
This sensitive personality type possess an enormous strength — compassion. Yet sometimes INFJs run the risk of going beyond just helping someone and serving as a catalyst for their growth. Instead, they try to “fix” a toxic person who doesn’t take accountability for their own healing.
If you’re an INFJ who’s been emotionally abused by narcissistic parents or a toxic partner, please know that it is not your fault. Your sensitivity and empathy may have been exploited by a toxic person, but these are still some of your greatest gifts to give the world. It simply means that you should use your empathy in a more discerning way, giving it to people who won’t use it for their own agenda.
Know that there are genuine people out there who won’t take advantage of your empathy and will be grateful for your support. You don’t have to break your own boundaries to meet the excessive expectations of toxic people.
3. INFJs need harmony in their relationships to thrive.
Since INFJs tend to skirt conflict whenever possible, they may feel themselves walking on eggshells around a toxic partner. Any survivor of abuse, whether it’s emotional or physical, can be prone to doing this — because of the effects of trauma. However, INFJs may be even more prone to rationalizing, denying, and minimizing the behavior of their abusers in order to “keep the peace.”
Narcissists may gaslight the INFJ into thinking that any mistreatment is “all in their head,” when in fact their sensitivity is alerting them to unhealthy behavior or even danger. Abusive partners, family members, or friends may tell the victimized INFJ that they’re being “too sensitive.” It’s true that INFJs can be highly sensitive, but they’re also able to think critically and recognize when their boundaries have been crossed.
If the INFJ does speak up, they may find themselves wanting to apologize for their words. The problem is, when you apologize to a toxic person who hurts you continually, regardless of any long-winded discussions about their behavior, you ignore the inner voice that tells you that this relationship is not okay. You begin to realize that you’re not the sensitive one. They, in fact, are the insensitive ones — even though toxic people can have very sensitive egos and may rage when they don’t get what they want.
How INFJs Can Protect Themselves from Narcissists
How can you protect yourself from getting into a relationship with a narcissist? One way is to hold true to yourself and your expectations for a good relationship. Don’t expect that everyone who initially seems like the ideal friend or partner is in fact the ideal. As INFJs, one of our biggest challenges is learning to honor ourselves and our instincts above the appearance of the ideal — in order to achieve the real thing.
When it comes to romance, in many cases, compassionate love builds slowly. The sudden spark of chemistry does not necessarily represent the authenticity of a long-term romance. Before putting your heart “all in,” give the relationship time to develop. See what the other person is like in many different situations and around different people. For example, how do they treat the server at the restaurant? Their mother? Your friends? Look for red flags — and signs that you’re in the right relationship — early on.
How INFJs Can Free Themselves from Toxic People
If there’s a narcissist in your life, it may seem impossible to extricate yourself from the relationship. But there’s good news: INFJs can call upon their fiery spirits to counteract a toxic situation. INFJs are also driven to end injustice, so much that they may go to the extreme of cutting any person who exhibits toxic behavior out of their lives. INFJs can use their stubbornness to their advantage when cutting ties with narcissists, if they’re willing to confront conflict head-on. Only then can they get the healthy lives they truly deserve.
When it comes to toxic people, the problem isn’t the INFJ’s sensitivity or willingness to call out mistreatment. Rather, an INFJ’s sensitivity often allows them to “feel” on a deep intuitive level when someone is toxic, or even a malignant narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath.
Your sensitivity can act as an intuitive radar for toxicity. So while it’s good to take a step back and mindfully note your reaction to someone, remember that as an INFJ, you also have a deep connection to your intuition. And you may be able to pick up on toxic vibes quicker than many other personality types.
So what does this all mean? It means that as an INFJ, you can trust your inner voice, for it can be your greatest friend and source of salvation in unhealthy situations. As a healer, you don’t need to be a constant “fixer” in order to change the world. As a sensitive being, don’t dismiss your sensitivity as paranoia, when it’s actually one of your greatest intuitive tools. And as a highly empathic person, you can still be compassionate towards others from a distance.
You don’t have to tolerate toxicity, mistreatment, or abuse by anyone simply to keep the peace. The most loving, empathic thing you can do for others, yourself, and the world is to hold others accountable for healing themselves.
More INFJ Resources
- What Is the INFJ Door Slam, and Why Do INFJs Do It?
- 5 Reasons Why INFJs Might Struggle With Depression
- What INFJs Do When They Get Stressed Out
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